With the right preparation, Hajj can be one of the most beautiful times of our lives. Hajj is an amazing journey. It’s physically and psychologically challenging, a ritual in self-purification and a rehearsal for the Day of Judgment.

Despite the challenges, upon the completion of their Hajj, many people describe feeling a sense of peace unlike any other.

Unfortunately, not everyone who goes for Hajj attains this peace. Some people come back from Hajj complaining, others come back ostentatious, or worse, secretly proud. What, in these cases, has gone wrong? How can we avoid such fate?

The Right Preparation

The way we prepare for Hajj is fundamental in how we will experience it. For millions of people all over the world, Hajj preparation occurs in the weeks or months before their departure. They pack bags, plan travel, apply for visas, and arrange provisions for their families for the time they will be away. A lot of energy goes into such material preparation.

But what about the spiritual preparation — how does one prepare spiritually for Hajj? Is such preparation even necessary? Doesn’t something just “kick in” when you see the Ka’bah, and your spirituality takes care of itself?

Well, no, not exactly.

Allah tells us in the verses that talk about Hajj:

{And take provisions for yourself, and verily the best provision is the provision of taqwa (God-consciousness).} (2:197)

Scholars can talk at length about this subject, but maybe the first place we should start when we think about how to attain taqwa is with our intentions. Why are we making this journey to begin with?

I remember asking myself this question as I prepared for Hajj. Unlike most trips I had taken in my life, the goal of this trip was not to attain some worldly gain or pleasure. I was going to give of my time and my energy, and to exert myself for the pleasure of Allah.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect in return for my giving. Would I feel different, somehow changed?

As my Hajj journey unfolded, I was surprised by how often I needed to remind myself of my intention. There was much there in terms of distraction around me. Not far from the doors of Al-Masjid Al-Haram were enough shops, cafes and restaurants to make my head spin. Continuously renewing my intention, and remembering how few the hours were that I would get to be in Makkah, helped me prioritize my time.

With our intentions in the right place, many things about our Hajj fall into place. But intention alone is not always enough.

Every Minute You are a Guest of Allah

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that the pilgrims performing Hajj every year are guests of Allah, and Allah is the Most Generous. One of the best ways we can be spiritually prepared for Hajj is to look at every moment of our journey as a gift from Allah and a chance to earn His pleasure. Doing so will help us immensely, especially during more trying times.

I remember putting this into practice as soon as we flew into the airport in Jeddah. Our group waited hours—not one or two, but several—in the airport for our visas to be processed. One could have easily gotten frustrated, but realizing that we were guests of Allah actually made the wait easy.

A wonderful piece of advice I myself followed was to use such “lag” time to read as much of the Quran as possible. The Quran was my companion, when I was standing in line, stuck in traffic on the bus, or just waiting for my group. I was Allah’s guest after all and it seemed only right that I be reading His words.

Eat and Drink Just Enough

The Hajj package we had booked was not the most lavish package by any means, but it seemed that whatever the travel agency was unable to afford us in physical comforts, it tried to make up for with food.

They provided buffet breakfast and dinner, dates and coffee in the hotel lobby, and even a buffet lunch on the Day of Arafat. I was a bit taken aback by it all. This was Hajj, not a Cruise Ship. But then I thanked Allah for the bounty around me and made a conscious effort not to let the food and drink be a distraction. I took what was necessary as nourishment to fulfill the rights of Hajj and worship Allah as He had instructed me and left the dessert buffet behind.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“The child of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach…” (At-Tirmidhi)

And this is especially true during Hajj. It’s very hard to be focused in tawaf, sa’iy or in prayers and supplication when we’ve overindulged on food and drink. One might compare it to the way we are cautioned against consuming too much food during Ramadan lest we lose some of the spiritual benefits of fasting or become lazy and heedless in our prayers during taraweeh.

Many people look back at their time in Hajj as the best time in their lives. The joy and focus they find in their worship is unmatched by any they have ever felt. For me personally, I was sure this feeling was due in large part to my turning away from excess food and drink.

Make Your Words Count

A lot of people talk a lot when they go for Hajj. They talk about everything—their jobs, their families, their pasts, their futures… Some people even joke around make fun of things along the way (and trust me, it’s never fun to have such people on your bus).

The Prophet cautioned us about how we use our tongues. He cautioned us against excessive or vain talk. He reminded us to make each of our words count toward our good deeds, and warned us that the harvest of the tongues would be one of the main reasons for people’s punishment in the hereafter.

When going for Hajj, it is of extreme benefit to heed this advice. The fact that we should be saying the talbiyah[1] and in a state of remembrance of Allah (SWT) should be enough to occupy us. In case it isn’t, let us remember that vain talk can actually do us great harm during Hajj. It deadens our hearts and distracts us from the true reason for our journey.

When we are quiet we are much more in tune with our surroundings. We listen more attentively when instructions are given; pay attention to the reminders we hear, and maybe most importantly, pay attention to our own thoughts. We can then turn those thoughts towards Allah (SWT) and be in a dialogue with Him.

Challenging, but Amazing

With the right preparation, Hajj can be one of the most beautiful times of our lives. That’s not to say it is without challenges; the Prophet recognized how challenging it was. But if we follow the right advice, we will take the challenges in stride and come away with the feeling of peace and serenity that Hajj is meant to bring.

What’s more is that implementing this advice in our daily lives can help us achieve the peace of Hajj, even if we are not able to make the actual journey.

By Marwa Abdalla

[1] The statement made by the pilgrim translated as: Here I am O Allah. In response to Your call. You have no partner. In response to Your call. All Praise and Blessings, and the Ownership of all that You created is Yours (alone). You have no partner.